Judges in the wrong for releasing alleged criminals
The High Court ruled last month that judges were wrong to refuse to extend the period defendants could be held in jail while awaiting trial. The CPS brought a High Court case against Crown Court judges based in Bristol, Oxford, Manchester, Leicester and London. The BBC found that at least 12 defendants, including those accused of murder, were bailed (therefore released back into society) because there weren’t enough barristers available to hear their cases due to the criminal barrister strikes.
Judges argued the strike was not a good enough reason to keep defendants behind bars for longer than the six-month pre-trial legal limit. The law limits offenders to 182 days in custody for indictable offences (essentially the worst types of offences such as murder and assault.) This falls under section 51 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and hasn’t been officially changed since 2015.
It was decided, however, that the lack of counsel was a good reason for judges to extend custody time limits as the situation was unforeseeable rather than routine. The decision is said not to extend past November 2022 due to the Criminal Bar Association's decision to end the strike.
According to the Criminal Bar Association, the justice system has felt the effects of underfunding for years. Latest statistics show legal aid rates have been cut by nearly 40% in the last 15 years. As a result, the criminal justice system has seen a 15% increase since September 2021 in the average time for crime to be dealt with. With these delays, there are concerns that victims are missing out on justice. The Criminal Bar Association agreed to end the strike after accepting a 15% pay rise in October this year. This shows a positive move in beginning to clear the backlog, but it’ll be a long time before the backlog is fully cleared.